Aside from people lining up to see Matt Damon marooned on Mars, October was a lousy month for Hollywood. Now that the calendar has turned to November, it may be up to Agent 007 to help revive the U.S. box office.
The latest entry in the James Bond film franchise, Spectre, doesn’t open in the U.S. until Friday, but the film already set records for its U.K. opening last week, when it grossed $80.4 million in the country’s biggest-ever film debut.
A big blockbuster opening is exactly what the doctor ordered in the U.S., where October ended with the lowest-grossing weekend box office so far this year at just $74 million in overall domestic ticket sales, according to The Hollywood Reporter. That total included two films starring Oscar winners, Bradley Cooper’s Burnt and Sandra Bullock’s Our Brand Is Crisis, which made less than $9 million combined in their domestic box office debuts.
But, the scary ticket sales weren’t confined to Halloween weekend, as the total domestic gross for the entire month of October was just $432.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo, which is less than half what Hollywood pulled in during the same month last year.
Just one bona fide blockbuster
Of the films released in October, only Fox’s (FOX) The Martian can legitimately be called a blockbuster. The Damon-starring, Ridley Scott space thriller hit theaters the first weekend of October and has gone on to gross more than $425 million worldwide, including $182 million in the U.S. That’s a great total for a fall release, but it only places The Martian just barely within the top-ten grossing films of the year, ahead of Ant-Man and behind Pitch Perfect 2. The fact that The Martian topped the box office four out of five weekends in October is as much a sign of its weak competition as an indicator of market dominance.
The only film to beat out The Martian for a weekend box-office title last month was Goosebumps, the kids horror books adaptation starring comedian Jack Black, which made almost half of its total $57 million domestic box office gross over its opening weekend a couple of weeks ago.
Lots of flops
Aside from those two films, October mostly unloaded one disappointment after another on U.S. movie theaters. Warner Bros.’ (TWX) Peter Pan prequel, Pan, was one of the year’s biggest flops, with the studio reportedly set to take a loss of more than $100 million on the film. Films with big-name actors and directors also disappointed last month, with the Danny Boyle-helmed, Michael Fassbender-starring Steve Jobs only grossing $14.5 million despite a bucket of Oscars hype, while the Guillermo del Toro-directed Crimson Peak, which stars Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain, made only $27.8 million in the U.S. on a budget of $55 million.
Worse still, though, were a pair of major flops two weekends ago, Jem and the Holograms and Rock the Kasbah, that each debuted with less than $2 million, ranking both flops within the 10 lowest-grossing opening weekends in the past three decades.
Without a doubt, Hollywood needs to move on from its dreadful October and a strong showing from the highly-anticipated Spectre would be a great start. The Sony (SNE) film, which features Daniel Craig reprising his role as the debonair Bond, cost a reported $200 million to make but analysts expect it could wind up grossing $260 million in the U.S. alone. The last Bond film, 2012’s Skyfall, was the first in the franchise to top the $1 billion mark in global ticket sales. Sony Pictures could use this hit, as it has had an absymal year at the box office, too.
Of course, even if James Bond isn’t the man for the job, Hollywood has several more big blockbusters waiting in the wings to ensure 2015 ends on a strong note at the box office. This year is already on pace to be the highest-grossing calendar year ever in terms of domestic sales and we still have another Hunger Games sequel coming later this month, while Walt Disney’s (DIS) long-awaited Star Wars: The Force Awakens could blast past Jurassic World to become the year’s biggest movie when it hits theaters in December.